Turlock's Smith wins CCC title

STEVINSON — Didn't this Smith kid graduate last year with a scholarship to USC? That question arose Tuesday as spectators watched Turlock's Paul Smith win the Central California Conference golf title.

Smith shot 2-over 74 at Stevinson Ranch, avoiding many of the traps that entangled much of the field. Only two other golfers broke 80, and one was teammate Travis Souza, The Bee's Basketball Player of the Year, was second after shooting 77.

The physical nature of the course was enough to trouble most golfers. A stiff wind, which had trees swaying, and it was evident that Smith and Souza were in a two-man game.

Smith, by the way, for those wondering? It was his brother Sam who ruled the Stanislaus District's golf courses the last four years — and Paul seems ready to take his place.

Sam's success included winning four CCC golf championships. Paul won't be able to match that because he's a junior, but two would be nice.

Turlock won its seventh consecutive CCC title by shooting 402. Golden Valley was second (427) and Pitman third (431) — and all three go to Monday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament at Brookside Country Club in Stockton.

Coaches meet today to determine the six individuals who will advance from the other four schools.

Pitman, finished the regular season tied with Atwater and Buhach Colony, but the tiebreaker was the low score in the conference tournament — so the Pride got the berth.

"This has been the most balanced the league has been in years. The scores are much closer. The matches tighter," Turlock coach Ben Culala said.

Smith was par through 13 holes, Culala said, before closing at 2-over.

"We have to count on Smith," Culala said. "This was his best wind round. It seems like we've played in nothing but rain or wind. Rarely has there been a good day."

Golden Valley's Cole Paris was the only golfer not wearing Bulldog blue-and-gold to break 80. The junior fired a 4-over 78, seemingly unfazed by 25 mile-per-hour gusts.

Paris hit a 15-foot putt for birdie on the fourth hole. Two holes later on the par-5, 459-yard sixth, aptly dubbed "Risk and Hope," he nearly eagled, rolling his approach to within a foot of the cup and tapping in.

"It's all about focus,"he said. "I had to stay within my game and not try anything stupid. Sometimes if you get pumped up, you (take) riskier shots. I tried to keep it simple."